“A transition to a more sustainable economy will be possible only if we fully understand the realities of carbon taxation.”
Last February the results of a Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) poll on the real value of a carbon tax in Ontario was released. The poll, made by Nanos Research, showed that over 60 per cent of the interviewees opposed to paying a carbon tax when given a specific price tag for it. The CTF came up with a number of an approximate monthly cost of $13 for a cap-and-trade program that covers car fuel and home heating. For Ontario residents, it seems that the willingness to pay an extra tax contradicts previous poll results that revealed that the majority were in favor with the climate regulations of the government, regulation that included CO2 pricing.
That is a contradiction that has been seen before. Families tend to favor affordable energy over carbon taxing. Who’s fault is it then? To answer that question we have to remember that putting a price on emissions is the way that economists have proposed to reflect the social and environmental costs of the emissions. But, who is responsible for the emissions? The consumers or the producers? Is it the household that consumes dirty energy the responsible or is it the power company that produces dirty energy the responsible for the emissions? In my opinion, both are responsible.
The company producing the dirty energy when having the opportunity for shifting to renewable energy production carries a heavier weight in the equation though. The households are looking for the best product they can afford, and the current economic system has made possible that non-renewable energy sources provide their services for cheaper.
Carbon taxes are not the solution to the problem but can contribute to a transition. Placing a price on carbon is suppose to incentivize the production of cleaner energy production reducing the social and environmental costs of emissions. The revenues of that tax should not go to subsidize substitutes for carbon intensive activities, but to replace other more damaging taxes that favor cheap and dirty energy production. Adding a carbon tax on top of all the other taxes will affect carbon intensive sectors like agriculture, making it less efficient and more impactful in the economy.
A transition into a more sustainable economy will be possible only if we fully understand the realities of carbon taxation. It is a try and error process, we have the technologies to make it possible. I consider that Imposing carbon pricing as a nationwide strategy for reducing the carbon footprint without fully understanding the consequences is very irresponsible. Households will end up paying for something the shouldn’t.
The clean fuel standard that Canada’s government announced in November 2016, is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 megatons by 2030. It is looking to reduce 17.5 per cent of transportation emissions nationwide. Transportation is the countries second largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, and despite the advances in vehicles fuel efficiency, the emissions keep adding more megatons of CO2 every year. The freight emissions have grown 132 per cent during the last 10 year, for example.
Meanwhile, a national framework for clean growth and climate change addresses a strategy to have zero emission vehicles by 2018. Quebec province has adopted a mandate that requires that at least 15 percent of all vehicle sells by 2025 have to be electric vehicles. Other places, like California, have implemented that mandate in their development plans.
So there are strategies out there that are creating very little changes in the policies and politics of climate change. Not enough to make a real change but at least we all already contemplating alternatives to the very nocive system we are living in.
Meanwhile, in places like Kitchener, Ontario, important civic institutions are taking action in their hands with the help of the local and federal government. Last week MP Raj Saini announced a federal fund of $83.000 towards lighting efficiency of TheMuseum. That institution is a place that presents relevant cultural content from all over the world in a unique way. The interactive exhibitions are meant to promote cultural inspiration for its community and visitors.
The improvement in the lights will represent a reduction of at least 20 percent of the cost of the hydro bill. A total investment of $165.000 provided by different sources such as the federal government, the local government, and the building’s owner among others, will create a reduction of $20.000 in the hydro bill. The long term strategy towards a more environmentally friendly space, will not only reduce the cost of the bills but will reduce the museum’s carbon footprint.
Apart from becoming an example of a transitional place towards cleaner and more efficient use of energy, the place will continue to be an urban landscape that integrates the history and local culture with social and environmental consciousness. As the mayor Vrbanovic said, this improvement will maintain for longer a historical building (a former Goudie’s department store) in the downtown area.
Implementation of a greener economy, especially when it comes down to the energy sector, one that involves from electric energy to transportation, should start now. Policy makers should push for more immediate changes. I think that we should consider our time as a transitional era, one that is going to bring solutions in the future for the problems of the present. Change is inevitable and indispensable, but we should do it carefully. Environmental and social justice should be the final outcome of the transition, not capital accumulation and inequality.
In the case of Ontario, many put the responsibility of people’s contradictions over the shoulders of politicians. They have not been totally truthful about the implications of carbon taxation in the province. Social responsibility and public accountability should be part of the process. Petitions have started spreading claiming that the federal carbon tax will affect the national economy, starting with rural Canadians.
Written by Sustainable Santi the 23rd of March 2017.